Apr 16, 2021

Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest 2021: A National Treasure in Words

Every year, we invite writers near and far to compose poetry focused on the Morro Bay estuary and surrounding lands for our Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest: A National Treasure in Words. The contest is open now through May 7, and writers age 8 and up can enter. Find the complete details on our Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest 2021 page.

2021 Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest themes

This year, we are looking for haiku on the theme “Morro Bay estuary and watershed” and free verse poems of up to 45 lines that explore the idea of finding solace in the natural world, and specifically the Morro Bay estuary and surrounding lands.

We chose this free verse theme after hearing from so many people who have found hope, healing, and joy in the natural beauty on and around the bay during this difficult past year. Some have mentioned daily walks overlooking the bay from their neighborhood streets or local trails, others have mentioned their morning paddles, and some have expressed the feeling of peace they get just from watching wildlife in the salt marsh or sitting near the water and watching the clouds move by.

Monica Stillman reads her winning poem, “Connections”

To inspire you, we’ll be sharing poems from last year’s winners on our Facebook and Instagram feeds over the next few weeks. Below, you’ll find a video of last year’s first place Free Verse winner, Monica Stillman, reading her beautiful poem, “Connections,” followed by the text of her poem. Enjoy!

2020 Free Verse First Place winner: Monica Stillman


The ocean breathes

at the pace of the waves.

Winds so vast they follow

the curve of Earth

comb fish and kelp

with waves that migrate

toward the land,

feel the shoaling rim

and rise, trough and crest

curl and plunge,

swash chasing

plover sanderling,

lifted spray returned

to the wind.

The bay breathes

at the pace of the tides.

Pulled taut by hanging

moon, ebb’s silver

channels ribbon

through waves of grass

and settled silt,

and pause . . .

until the turning

when the flood returns,

a wash that fills

the Bay to brimming,

thirsty blades quenched,

clamped shells reopen,

parched flats loosen

their cracks,

and the bay’s full

arms gather drops

of sunlight.


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